This episode was transitional. It's setting up things for the battle at King's Landing and the rapidly approaching season finale. This wasn't a great episode but I didn't think it would be. There were a lot of loose ends to tie up.
We open up with the mass killing of ravens at Winterfell. This is so there can be no requests for assistance. It's the low tech equivalent of bank robbers demanding all the cell phones from the hostages. For some reason this impacted me a bit. I mean here are some pretty helpless animals that have been trained to trust men and they are all slaughtered. It's a small thing but again shows Theon's viciousness. Ned Stark is dead and his firstborn son is away. No one is there to protect his people or his ravens. Yara Greyjoy arrives at Winterfell with a much smaller group of men than Theon had requested. She makes fun of Theon and calls him stupid. When he blusters and dares her to do so again she does so again with profanity. Through her body language and tone of voice it's very clear that Yara is not physically afraid of Theon. Heck I believe she could take him. Yara says that killing the Stark children was cowardly and dumb and that their father wants a word with Theon. Yara will not stay at Winterfell. Theon refuses to leave Winterfell. Yara says that the entire North will be coming for Theon and that he won't be able to hold Winterfell. She reminds Theon of a time when he was a bawling baby and she didn't kill him which I guess is as close as you can get to familial love among the Greyjoys.
Among the Wildlings, Rattleshirt has captured Qhorin Halfhand and doesn't think he needs Jon Snow alive. Ygritte argues for Jon's life and points out that Mance Rayder will certainly want to interrogate a son of Ned Stark. This makes Rattleshirt change his mind. Ygritte tells Jon Snow that they're even. As they're being marched back to Rayder's camp, Halfhand tells Jon that his job is to stay alive. He decides to make it look like he hates Jon Snow and loudly blames Jon's infatuation with Ygritte for being the reason that they were captured. Snow in part blames himself as it was by waiting for Snow that Halfhand was captured and the other members of the party killed. Ygritte doesn't know if she believes Halfhand's insults and assault on Jon or not. Meanwhile as Sam and the rest of the Night Watch are digging latrines, they come across some graves made by the First Men which contain obsidian spearheads and a horn, atypically wrapped in a modern Night Watch cloak. This will be important later so take notes. Well I'm just kidding about the notes but not about the other stuff.
At the Crag, Robb and Talisa speak of Robb's upcoming marriage and his father's lessons about life, fear and the responsibilities of leadership. Robb is sharing a lot of vulnerability with Talisa as well as his hopes that this war is not about revenge or glory but justice. He gets word that Jaime Lannister has been released by Catelyn Stark.* Back at camp Robb wants to know why and Catelyn said it was to trade for her daughters. Lord Karstark is furious and points out that her daughters are still alive while two of his sons are dead. Robb is not happy with his mother's undermining of his authority and has her confined to camp. Down river Brienne ignores Jaime's jibes and challenges and gets him in a boat. They're headed for King's Landing.
At Harrenhal, Tywin and Kevan Lannister (his brother, which is why he is free to argue with Tywin without being sent to bed with no supper) argue over the proper move. They can't decide whether they should continue to try to fight Robb Stark who hasn't lost to them yet or retreat to protect Joffrey from Stannis' approaching armies. Tywin is angry and frustrated with the whole situation but decides that saving Joffrey and more importantly the Lannister hold on the Iron Throne is paramount, especially since Robb will hopefully be busy sending forces back to re-take Winterfell. Tywin decides to withdraw the bulk of his forces to King's Landing leaving The Mountain at Harrenhal. Arya tries to find Jaqen but can't do so before Tywin departs.
In King's Landing Bronn and Tyrion are starting to get on each other's nerves. These two have a nice little comedic riff going. It's almost like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in Westeros. Tyrion is speedreading "Surviving Sieges for Dummies" while Bronn doesn't think books will be of any use. Bronn also doesn't like Tyrion telling him to dress more appropriately as leader of the City Guard. Varys enters and congratulates Tyrion on the drop in crime. Bronn nonchalantly explains that thieves cause major problems in sieges so he rounded up all the thieves he could find and well..what do you think he did. Bronn is a very practical man and smugly goes back to cleaning his nails which is what irritated Tyrion in the first place.
At Harrenhal Arya finds Jaqen and rebukes him for not being around. She loves her brother very much. Jaqen is like look kid you get one more name and it's too bad for you it can't be Tywin. She gives Jaqen his own name and refuses to change her request unless he helps her and her friends to escape. Rather irritated, he tells them to walk through the gate at midnight. I am so reminded in a weird way of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. At midnight Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are waiting to walk thru the gate but the guards are all still there. Gendry and Hot Pie are too afraid to walk out. But Arya is unafraid. She trusts Jaqen and does what he told her. As it turns out the guards-all of them-are impaled on their own spears. Just who or what is this Jaqen guy anyway???? And if he could do that then why was he hanging around? The children escape. At King's Landing Tyrion and Cersei have dinner. Cersei has the biggest smirk on her face. Joffrey plans to fight in the battle, something which doesn't bother Tyrion in the least. He thinks it might be good for morale and is unconcerned, Cersei thinks a little too unconcerned, about the possibility of Joffrey's capture, wounding or death. Unable to keep the bitterness and smugness out of her voice, Cersei tells Tyrion that the reason Varys is so dangerous is because he doesn't have a penis and thus can't be controlled the way so many men are by theirs.**
Cersei Lannister, King's Landing feminist. Right. Obviously making a comparison to herself and her supposed intelligence, Cersei reveals she has Tyrion's companion and that whatever happens to Joffrey will happen to the whore, only double. Tyrion tries to pretend he doesn't care but Cersei knows he does. In order to prove to her brother she's not bluffing, she has her guards bring in "my brother's whore", but as it turns out she has the already beaten Roz, not Shae. Tyrion doesn't let Cersei know this of course and pretends to be hurt and shocked. He also grimly and calmly tells his sister that some day no matter how long it takes he will get her back for this. When she least expects it, he'll be there. Afterwards he runs off to ensure that Shae is okay and reveals that he really does love her. This is a nice reference to Cersei's statement the previous week that love makes people weak. Falling in love with a woman that you pay, well it happens I guess.
At Robb's camp, Roose Bolton convinces Robb to send Roose's bastard son to retake Winterfell. Roose leaves. Talisa enters and after an interesting origin story of how she came to be a nurse, Robb admits that he does not want to marry the Frey girl and Talisa shows him how to make a lady smile. Vigorously. With enthusiasm.
Stannis and Davos are sailing to King's Landing and hope to be there in a day. Davos speaks of how he doesn't care that Stannis' other bannermen still despise him because of his low birth. Stannis thinks Davos is mistaken to let go of grudges but admires his strength in not caring what others think of him. Stannis shares the second characteristic. Stannis has not forgotten that Davos saved his life in the war against the Mad King. Stannis has also not forgotten that even though he held Storm's End as directed, his brother Robert gave it to Renly. Stannis says that once he's duly recognized as king, Davos will be his Hand. For the first time we get to see why Stannis is able to inspire loyalty in Davos and the story is better for it. In Stannis' retelling of his stubborn holding of Storm's End because those were the orders he had, we get a glimpse of just how much law, order and doing the right thing matter to Stannis. If he gets an order he's gonna follow it no matter what. His brother said fight, so Stannis fought. But now that he's the one giving orders he expects the same obedience from others. Ned Stark relieved the siege but if he hadn't I imagine Stannis would still be holding out. This man is committed.
Jorah tells Danerys he's found a ship and they should leave. Danerys insults his bravery and repeats that she wants her dragons back-they are all the children she will ever have. At King's landing Joffrey is talking smack about how he's going to lead the battle from the front. Tyrion sarcastically tells him to rock on with his bad self. Tyrion is overseeing the reinforcing of a weak point in the defensive wall and runs across Varys. Curious as to why Varys didn't rat out Shae to Cersei Tyrion asks him what he wants. Varys evades the question and shares that he heard Danerys is still alive and has dragons. This shows that Varys is very much a game player as he was just seconds ago claiming not to know what was going on in the North, which upset Joffrey, but now he has accurate information about what's going on a continent away? This was nicely and subtly done.
In Winterfell Theon thinks it's time the burned bodies of the two boys came down. Dagmar says why not leave them up longer. Theon also gives some gold for Dagmar to give to the farmer and Dagmar says why bother. Maester Luwin sees Osha and realizes what my blog partners Fed_Up and Godson figured out last week, Bran and Rickon Stark are still alive. Osha has them hidden in the Winterfell crypts. Osha and Maester Luwin agree to hide the death of the other boys from Bran and Rickon but Bran overhears them.
*This does point out the silliness of expecting that full grown adults will obey children-especially THEIR children. As we've seen in the show this season both the Starks and the Lannisters are hamstrung by this expectation, based in "kingship". I strongly urge people to read the books. And that's all I have to say about that.
**It is also important to mention here that although Cersei was somewhat humanized last week, she remains a highly unpleasant and frankly evil person. That said she does have a fair resentment over patriarchal rules that prevent her from holding power in her own name. She is after all the eldest of Tywin's children. The stereotypical way in which she manipulates men only adds to her frustration with her role and to her contempt with men in general.
*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes. If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea